41. The Banking Crisis

In the last weeks of Hoover's term, investors sought reassurance that the new administration would defend the gold standard. The president, the Federal Reserve, and The New York Times urged the president-elect to publicly state his position in order to quiet the latest panic. Roosevelt kept his silence.

Banks in two dozen states began to totter. Hoover proposed that the Federal Reserve guarantee every depositor's account in the nation – an idea of deposit insurance that would eventually become law – but the Reserve preferred a general bank holiday. Hoover refused to take this drastic action without Roosevelt's agreement.  

Twice on the night of March 3rd, Hoover telephoned the president-elect, but FDR replied that state governors were free to do what they wished. A little after 1:00 a.m., the governors of New York and Illinois unilaterally suspended banking operations in their states.

The next morning, March 4th, an embittered Hoover rode down Pennsylvania Avenue with the new president in his Inaugural Parade. Later, Hoover learned of an unguarded comment by a Roosevelt advisor to the effect that FDR should do nothing to deny his predecessor both responsibility and blame for the collapse of the banking industry.

Police stand guard outside the entrance to New York's closed World Exchange Bank, March 20, 1931.